I’m cheating here, because this doesn’t really have anything to do with language (except insofar as it emphasizes that the word sexism still has a referent). But Jeanne has such a great post at Body and Soul that I can’t resist pointing to it and saying “Go, read, and think about this stuff.” The story she tells, and the stories it sparks off in her commenters, build up a picture of how families are affected by war, sexism, and other disasters, and the amazing resilience some women have shown. As Jeanne says:
Somewhere in those bits of stories, there’s evidence of deep-rooted sexism in this society, and a moral about what constricted opportunity does to women and, indirectly, to men. But it’s far from a simple morality play of bad men and suffering women—although I could easily shape it into that if I wanted to. (My mother’s friend wanted to, and did.) It isn’t a story about the powerful and the powerless. Looking back on those people’s lives, I can’t see anyone really having any power.
And that’s the way sexism works as often as not. Lots of hurt people, and no one to blame.
Furthermore, she has followed up with an equally wonderful post about Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul, the subject of a lawsuit and (consequently) a great deal of press, the latter by and large positioning the story as one of an intrepid Western reporter versus a medieval, repressive Afghan man (one of the subjects of her book, and her host while she was there) trying to stifle her free expression. Jeanne has a very different, and more interesting, take on it.
Tiresome caveat: Yes, I’m aware women are also capable of behaving very badly and men are capable of behaving well. This isn’t about that, and comments that go on too long emphasizing it will be suspected of protesting too much.